Thursday, May 24, 2007

Friendship Quiz

A friend of mine on Facebook wrote this in her "Notes." For those unfamiliar with Facebook, the Photos and Notes section of a Facebook user's account acts like a blog. If you don't already have a blog, Facebook Notes gives you a place to start one. If you do have a blog, you can set up Facebook Notes to automatically mirror your blog as you make entries. This blog, for example, is mirrored in my Facebook Notes.

Anyway, her Notes entry asks you comment on the entry, writing your response to the questions as they relate to the person whose Notes/blog you're writing in. Then you, in turn, post the questions back to your own Notes/blog and wait for the person you responded to to respond to you, and so on.

It looked like fun, so I figured, what the heck? :)

So. If you'd like to answer these questions, please post a comment then, if you post them to your own blog/Notes, let me know where I can find them so I can return the favor! ;)
  1. Who are you?
  2. Are we friends?
  3. When and how did we meet?
  4. Do/Did you have a crush on me?
  5. Give me a nickname and explain why you picked it.
  6. Describe me in one word.
  7. What was your first impression?
  8. Do you still think that way about me now?
  9. What reminds you of me?
  10. If you could give me anything what would it be?
  11. How well do you know me?
  12. When's the last time you saw me?
  13. Ever wanted to tell me something but couldn't?
  14. Are you going to post this in your notes/blog and see what I say about you?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dangers of Bike Lanes

I read an article today from the Madison Capital Times titled "Bike helmet crushed, but head fine." In brief, a cyclist was proceeding through an intersection in a bicycle lane when a truck suddenly made a right turn in front of him. He attempted to stop, but ended up being thrown off the bike and under the wheels of the truck. The truck ran over his head as it rounded the corner. Miraculously, thanks to his helmet, the cyclist was fine.

This is the exact kind of accident that bicycle lanes cause.

A bicycle lane creates the impression, particularly in the inexperienced and/or poorly educated cyclist's mind, that "this is where bicycles belong, not in the travel lanes with the motorists." Further, many non-cyclists think that the presence of a bicycle lane makes it illegal for the cyclist to use the regular travel lanes or, for that matter, for the motorist to use the bicycle lanes.

None of these beliefs are true.

The cyclist in the above article obviously intended to proceed straight through the intersection. If that was the case, his proper position was in the center of the through lane, not at the extreme right. If a cyclist stays too far right when proceeding straight at an intersection, they invite motorists to squeeze by and turn right into their path, and that's just what happened. This error is so common, it even has a name: a "right hook."

Further, a cyclist making a left turn at an intersection must shoulder check, signal and merge into the left turn lane or, on a two lane street, merge to the left side of the lane near the center line, in preparation for a left turn regardless of the presence of a bike lane. Again, inexperienced cyclists and non-cyclists don't tend to realize this, either.

That's the problem with cycle lanes. They are usually painted at the extreme right. This tends to guide the inexperienced cyclist to stay right all the time, even when it's not appropriate to do so. For that matter, if a cycle lane is somehow damaged, filled with debris or is situated in the "door zone" along parked cars, a cyclist does have the right to choose to ignore the bike lane altogether and use the main travel lanes for their safety.

"Why should cyclists be allowed in our lanes?" many motorists would argue. "We're not allowed in their lanes."

Surprisingly, that isn't true, either...

A motorist intending to make a right turn at an intersection with a bike lane is required to merge into the bike lane in preparation for the turn, just as they would if the cycle lane was an ordinary right turn lane. By doing so, the motorist signals clearly to any cyclist approaching from behind that he or she intends to turn right, thus preventing the cyclist from riding up alongside them and getting right hooked.

So, not only are cyclists not supposed to stay in the bike lane all the time, neither do motorists have to stay out of it all the time. Choice of lane, particularly at intersections, is all about your destination, not the vehicle you're driving.

Accidents like the one above are among the many reasons why I think cycle lanes are useless, and can be downright dangerous if people aren't properly educated in how to use them. Under certain conditions, there are rules that allow motorists to share the cyclists' lane and the cyclists to share the motorists' lanes. If you just paint the cycle lanes without providing education on how to use them safely, accidents like the above are inevitable.

This is also why I feel that cycle lanes only complicate matters, adding additional rules that motorists and cyclists must learn that really aren't necessary. A road with ordinary travel lanes is already an elegant means for all vehicles to share the road, provided everyone follows the rules and is patient with the varying operating characteristics of the wide variety of vehicles out there.

This was obviously an inexperienced cyclist traveling too fast for his experience level. The fact that he flipped himself over the handlebars suggests he didn't know how to modulate his front brake in an emergency stop and, if he was unable to stop in time, he should have executed a quick turn with the truck to avoid the collision instead of trying to stop, anyway. The cycle lane only made things worse by encouraging him to stay too far to the right.

I maintain, and I will always maintain, that there is only one way to increase the safety of cyclists on North America's roads: education. Cyclists and motorists alike must be made to understand the cyclists are vehicle operators with the same rights and responsibilities as any user of the road.

If we can get that message out, we won't need any special lanes for cyclists.

On May 16, 2007 11:50:10 AM ADT, Anonymous wrote:
The fact of the matter is that, as far as it appears from the article about this collision, and in most right hooks, the motorist is 100% at fault for the accident.
I disagree. The cyclist was in the wrong lane for his destination. Any vehicle operator who goes straight through an intersection in a right turn only lane (which is what cycle lanes, at intersections, essentially are) is entirely at fault if he/she gets right hooked by a vehicle that is using the lane for the right turn it's meant for.

That being said, yes the motorist should have merged into the bike lane in preparation for the turn. The motorist is at fault in that sense. However, general public perception is that motorists are supposed to stay out of the bike lanes at all times. The motorist did make a mistake, but it wasn't a mistake of negligence on his part. It was a mistake of cultural misconception.
Focusing on what the cyclist could have done better detracts from the responsibility of the motorist.
Not at all. Actually, the fault is pretty much 50/50 in this case. Both cyclist and motorist were in the wrong lanes for their intended destinations, and both where in the wrong lanes because of lack of public education on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists and motorists when interacting with each other in traffic in the presence of a bike lane.

I focus on the cyclist because a vast majority of cyclist/motorist collisions are the fault of the cyclist because (in my experience) so few cyclists recognize the fact that the bicycle needs to be driven in traffic just like any vehicle. That, and the fact that, despite the motorist's error, the collision could have been completely avoided had the cyclist been in the correct lane position.

On May 16, 2007 11:54:45 AM ADT, Frank H. wrote:
Madison (where this accident occured) has many of these [separate cycle] paths, and I must say there is a certain sense of ease, calm and safety riding on these paths compared to on the street. However, as this accident points, you still need to be fully aware and cautious at intersections with streets. This sense of safety gets many people out riding their bikes for commuting and exercise when they might otherwise choose to drive.
I've seen so many people focusing on how bike lanes and paths will get more people out biking. Maybe it will, but at what cost? As this incident proves, just getting people out on their bikes could be dangerous if they don't have the necessary education in how to interact safely with traffic. We need to be less anxious to get people on their bikes so bloody fast and more anxious about educating them first before they put their butts in the saddle.
For example, try convincing a parent of a young child to tote their kid around in a bike trailer on a busy street. Not gunna happen
I have known parents who have done just that... ;)

The thing is, doing that only sounds crazy to the cycling neophyte. The experienced cyclist with the proper traffic skills knows that doing that is actually no more or less dangerous than taking your children out for a ride in the car.
I regularly rode down a busy four-lane street for four miles to work . . . I am an experienced cyclist and it was scary to me . . . If I had a bike lane on this street, at least I would have some room to breath, a little more room between me and the menacing dump trucks.

[I]t sure feels better then having cars whiz by within inches of us every few seconds.
If cars were whizzing by you within inches every few seconds, chances are you were riding too close to the road edge.

Some lanes are just too narrow to share safely with other traffic. When they are, you must take the entire lane. Doing so communicates clearly to the approaching traffic behind you that they must move over into the other lane completely in over to overtake you. Assuming your experience dovetails with mine (and there's no reason to think it wouldn't), moving out into the center of the lane on such a road will cut your "close calls" to near zero.
I think your arguments are valid, but I don't think they detract from the usefulness of bike lanes, especially to inexperienced cyclist . . .
On the contrary. Cycle lanes are more dangerous to the inexperienced cyclist. The experienced cyclist at least knows when not to use them.
[A] few extra feet of space for me doesn't hurt either.
True, but I find a few extra feet of space more useful when that few extra feet of space isn't marked off by bike lane stripes. Wide outside lanes accomplish many of the same things bicycle lanes are supposed to accomplish without many of the cycle lane's inherent dangers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Loose Ends

I wasn't sure I wanted to write this entry at first. However, when I read Riin's most recent blog entry (where she expresses some "random thoughts" as she calls them), I felt I needed to write down a few "random thoughts" of my own. I realized as I read her random thoughts that, although I might have said all the main things I have to say, there are a few "loose ends" I need to tie up thought-wise.

I hesitated to write them down because, while they're not all about Riin, some of them are and, to be honest, I really don't feel like talking about her anymore. Not that I don't love her anymore or that I've given up. It's just that, at this point, I've said it all already. I don't want to keep rehashing it. Still, there are a few things that I've never said, mostly because they're a bunch of small things, each one too small to dedicate a full blog entry to.

So I figured I'll take a cue from Riin and throw them all together into my own "random thoughts." I don't want to use that term for them, though. That's Riin's. Hm... I think I'll call them "loose ends."

So. Loose ends:

I had an irritating exchange with my neighbour across the hall this past Easter. For those of you who don't live in Nova Scotia, shopping on Sunday was only recently legalized here (we were the last province to do it). Ever since then, I've done my grocery shopping on Sunday. Now, the exchange with my neighbour was friendly enough until I mentioned that I was going out to get groceries a day early on Saturday because the stores will be closed on Easter Sunday.

As she walked away from me, she muttered: "Well, you have to respect the Lord at least one day a year."

Well, I thought to myself, to hell with you, lady. I resent the insinuation that just because I don't interpret "God" in the Christian way, then I don't "respect" Him. I'm not Christian. I resent your insinuation that everyone should be (and that is what your statement implied). Damn, people like that irritate me. I don't presume to dictate to her what she should believe. Where does she get off dictating to me what I should believe...?

I recently had a heated exchange with a friend at work about my Studded Tires rant. She jumped down my throat, saying if I don't drive a car I have no business telling people when to put on or take off their studs. Welcome to my world, girl. People who haven't ridden bikes in decades like to tell me how to ride my bike, too. When they stop doing that, I'll stop complaining about people who are irresponsible with studded tires.

My sister Mandy and I took our mother out to dinner for mother's day. Like myself, Mandy has gone through a recent breakup, and we got talking about breakups in general. At one point, I mentioned how cruel I felt Riin was being, pushing me out of her life so callously. My mother said something that surprised me. "I've done that to people before," she said, "but it wasn't until I got older that I realized how much I was hurting people doing it."

That made me stop and think. I recently said that Riin had a cruel streak in her. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe what she really has is a clueless streak. That's easier for me to believe. She is clueless about some things (as we all are). It's not too much of a stretch to think that she may have no idea how cruel it is to push someone who loves her out of her life.

I don't know for sure either way but, until I do, I'm going to err on the side of compassion and assume I was wrong about her being cruel. That being said, I apologize both to her and to my readers for having said that.

In her recent entry, Riin says she's happier because people aren't yelling at her anymore. I never used to yell at her but, as I said in my recent post Facing Anger, I was yelling at her more often since my grandmother died. That's probably a big part of the reason why she left. I agree she shouldn't have to live her life with people yelling at her all the time, but she can't go through life expecting never to be yelled at ever.

If being yelled at is what she's afraid of, that would explain why she's not willing to talk things out with me. She's afraid I'll yell at her and, if we try to talk on the phone right now, she's probably right. I'm still pretty angry. I do think Riin and I need to communicate but, given the way we both feel right now, I think it'd be wiser to do it through E-mail. We could start by her sending me these private thoughts she's been writing about me and go from there.

I'm not very happy in life right now. Not so much due to recent events but life in general. I'm not anywhere near where I wanted to be in life right now. I'm sick of call center work. I want to do something with my life, but I feel like I'm in a rut with no way out. I started to climb out of it, then recent events pulled the rug out from under me and I fell into another one of my depressions. I've been there ever since.

I feel overwhelmed by the mess of this place. There's so much crap around here, I can't even begin to figure out how to even start. Yet I'm sick of living this way. I want to clean it up, but I don't know where to begin and I'm ashamed to ask for help and let anyone I know see the disgusting mess of this place.

I'm getting sick of mechanical problems with my bike. I knew it was a rental. I knew the back wheel was weak and had a flat spot. I knew I'd probably be dealing with broken spokes. The guys at the bike shop did warn me I'd probably have problems with it, but I thought I could get one season out of it. Unfortunately, this is the second spoke I've broken. I could get a new wheel, but I'm trying to save money here.

When am I ever going to find the time, or energy, to write again? I used to love writing screenplays. After all the pain I've been through lately, I've probably got oodles of story seeds in my head just waiting to grow. So how come none have taken root? And even if they do, will I be able to get enough time to myself to be able to write on a computer that I have to share?

OK. I'm talked out.

I need to go to bed... but I probably won't sleep well... there's another problem lately...

I'm feeling kinda discouraged tonight... does it show...?

On May 15, 2007 1:40:18 AM ADT, Chicklet wrote:
John, you know... all you need to do is ask when you want to write, and I would give the computer over to you . . . so what, if i complain about you asking for it? I'd give up and go to the TV after a bit anyway...
The problem is, though, that by the time you do "give up and go to the TV," the argument to get the computer has generally knocked me out of the mood to write. Even if it doesn't, sometimes you end up complaining "what am I going to do now?" for the first half hour I am using the computer and distract me when I am trying to write.

You have the computer all day while I'm at work and even after I go to bed (since you stay up until nearly sunrise most mornings). It's sort of frustrating that you complain at all when I want to use it when I get home.

I mean, it's not like there's nothing else to do. You always have at least a half dozen shows on the DVR and, even on those rare days you don't, we have a sizeable collection of DVDs. Besides, I could use some help with picking up around here. Why not do that? Part of the reason the place gets into such a state is because I don't get much help with it and it's hard to keep up with two people worth of clutter.

Yes, you help a little, but I do work. I need more help than I'm getting, particularly given how untidy we both are by nature. You say you resent having to clean up my mess, but you frequently leave just as much mess as I do, particularly in the winter when somehow all of your coats end up migrating from the closet to the couch one by one. Yes, I know you can't reach the hangers, but that is a mess of yours that I have to deal with.

My point is, we share a living space. Whenever either of us does cleaning, we're inevitably going to clean up some of the other person's mess. That's impossible to avoid, and it's sort of frustrating to think you resent it so much.

Yes, I know your back is sore, too. I could help you with that if you'd just let me give you a back rub once in a while. And I don't mean a rub through your clothes while you're still sitting at the computer. I mean a back rub, laying on the bed so there's no stress on your back and I can get at all the muscle groups that bother you. I'd love to do that, anyway, but you're rarely in bed when I'm home and, when you are, you're generally asleep already.

Maybe if you'd let me give you a back rub at least once in a while, maybe your back wouldn't be so sore and you could help out more which, in turn, would give you something to do when I want to use the computer and help me out with this mess. Heck, I'd be able to do more cleaning around here if I didn't feel so overwhelmed, and I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed if I felt like I had more help...

Hm... seems to me that those back rubs, which should theoretically be fun for both of us, might be the key to a lot of these problems... ;)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Share the Road

The best way to educate motorists on bicyclists' rights to the road is to ride respectfully and have facts on your side. Here are some resources for cyclists and drivers on sharing the road.

Sharing the Roads: CYCLISTS

On the Road:
  • The same laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists
  • Obey all traffic control devices
  • Use hand signals to indicate stops and turns other users
Always Wear a Properly Fitting Helmet:
  • Wear a helmet, no matter how short the trip
Ride on the Right:
  • Always ride in the same direction as traffic
  • Use the furthest right lane that heads to your destination
  • Slower moving cyclists and motorists stay to the right
Ride Predictably:
  • Ride in a straight line
  • Don't swerve in the road or between parked cars
  • Check for traffic before entering street or intersection
  • Anticipate hazards and adjust your position accordingly
Be Visible:
  • Wear brightly colored clothing that provides contrast
  • Use a white front light in low light conditions
  • Use a red rear light in low light conditions
  • Use a reflector or reflective tape or clothing anytime
  • Announce yourself by making eye contact with motorists
Sharing the Roads: MOTORISTS

Drive Cautiously:
  • Reduce speed when encountering cyclists
  • Don't tailgate, especially in bad weather
  • Recognize hazards cyclists may face and give them space
Yield to Cyclists:
  • Bicycles are considered vehicles
  • Cyclists should be given the appropriate right of way
  • Allow extra time for cyclists to traverse intersections
Be Considerate:
  • Scan for cyclists in traffic and at intersections
  • Do not blast your horn in close proximity to cyclists
  • Look for cyclists when opening doors
Pass with Care:
  • When passing, leave at least one meter between you and a cyclist
  • Wait for safe road and traffic conditions before you pass
  • Check over your shoulder before moving back
Watch for Children:
  • Children on bicycles are often unpredictable
  • Expect the unexpected and slow down
  • Don't expect children to know traffic laws
  • Because of their size children can be harder to see
Whether you ride or drive, please share the road!

On May 10, 2007 10:46:38 AM ADT, Jack wrote:
Bike . . . lanes are constant reminders to vehicles that cyclists have rights too! In other words, these lanes serve as continuing education!
Yeah. They say: "This is where the cyclist belongs, in this lane. If you see them in the ordinary travel lanes, that's not where they belong.

The problem is, staying to the right, where bike lanes invariably are, is not always the correct thing to do. For example, when a cyclist wishes to make a left turn, the correct thing to do is to shoulder check, signal and move left into the appropriate lane or, on a two lane road, move left close to the center line prior to making your turn. Bike lanes, however, tend to imply that the cyclist must always stay right at all times.

Even cyclists who know how to make a proper left turn are hampered by cycle lanes because, though the cyclist might know the difference, sometimes the motorist does not. This results in angry horn honking as the motorist demands that the cyclist return to "their" space when they're actually making a perfectly legal and proper left turn.

Then there are bike lanes that are poorly maintained. The law in most states and provinces allows a cyclist to use his or her judgment to decide, when encountering debris or surface flaws in a bike lane, when not to use the lane and instead use the travel lane where the surface is more stable. Debris is, unfortunately, very common in bike lanes since it is into the bike lane that passing car tires "sweep" debris...

Bike lanes are a pretty dangerous way to "educate..."
There will always be an inherent conflict between motorized vehicles and pedestrian-cyclists.
Why? Because cyclists are slower? The rules of the road and meant to accommodate slower vehicles equally with the faster ones.

"Pedestrian-cyclists" implies that cyclists are closer to being pedestrians rather than vehicle operators. I disagree. An experienced cyclist travels, on average, between 25 and 35 km/h over level ground. On downhills, speeds can reach or exceed 50 km/h. That's more than sufficiently fast to qualify as a vehicle, not a pedestrian.
I know that my wife and many friends will not comfortably ride on streets without bike lanes. Your personal view is not helping them and its pervasiveness is preventing the cycling world from having needed riders to create more critical mass.
Just getting butts out on bicycles isn't going to help if those cyclists don't have clue one how to interact with traffic, and cycle lanes encourage cyclists to get out there without any education because the cycle lanes create a false sense of security.

If you want to get more cyclists riding, education is the key. Educate the cyclist and the motorist on how to interact on the road, and tell them why the rules are there. If more cyclists understood the dynamics of traffic interaction and actually tried vehicular cycling principles, maybe more people would be comfortable riding on the road without the irrational fear of being mowed down only because there are cars on the road with you.

If you've been riding for 50 years, you of all people must know how safe it really is to be out there...
I wish you were right but numerous studies and successful cities say otherwise.
Would you care to provide my readers with some links to these studies?

On May 11, 2007 1:16:06 PM ADT, Jack wrote:
There's a great deal of misperception about bike lanes and misleading information is being circulated. This information is used in ways that is destructive to the cycling community and should be stopped.
I agree. Except it is you, not I, that is circulating that misleading information.
The idea that bike lanes prevent cyclists from using non-bike painted areas for travel is absurd. Just as cars and truch traverse bike lanes, cyclists too may use (and must) other sections of the road when necesary and prudent. If you know of a law that states differeently I would appreciate seeing it.
I'm not talking about law. I'm talking about perception. A cyclist that knows the law is an educated cyclist. Of course the educated cyclist is going to know the difference. I know the difference. My point is that most cyclists are not educated (based on my observations... I encounter at least one bad cyclist every ride). In turn, cyclists who are not educated, seeing a bike lane, tend to assume that that lane is the only part of the road they're allowed to use.

(BTW, before I get nailed for using the term "educated" too broadly, I don't mean that these cyclists are not educated academically. I'm referring specifically to how educated they are as far as driving their bicycles in traffic.)

IMHO, the biggest problem in cyclist education throughout North America is this: the idea that cyclists are somehow "different" from other vehicle operators and need to be treated differently in some way. They do not. By following all the principles laid out in the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, a cyclist can safely negotiate in and out of any kind of traffic, including motor traffic, without needing any kind of special road markings.

Why do so many cyclists get hurt? Simple. Most honestly don't know that the rules of the road apply to them, just like everyone else using the road. A vast majority of cyclist/motorist collisions happen at intersections and a vast majority of those collisions, in turn, are caused by the cyclist ignoring stop signs, traffic lights, intersection signals or positioning themselves in the incorrect lane or the incorrect position within the lane to clearly indicate intention.

None of these problems have anything to do with the presence or absence of cycle lanes. They have to do with ignorance on the part of the cyclists as to what responsibilities their right to use the road carries.
In addition, you may want to travel to other cities around the world to see how they address the "right side only" area for bike lanes. Some of the most interesting designs are where bike lanes are in the middle of the road.
I'll grant that there are some interesting and fairly safe designs out there, particularly in Europe. I still see them as a waste of time for the most part, though.
The existence of bike lanes do not nullify the rights to avoid road hazards.
True. The trouble is that many people, cyclists and motorists alike, don't realize this.
I never implied that cyclists-pedestrians were in the same doesn't help when statements are improperly twisted. The only similarity is that both are often overlooked in the design of our streets.
Pedestrians aren't overlooked in most street designs (with the possible exception of rural roads). There are sidewalks. There are walk signs. Those are pedestrian features. But, then again, pedestrians, by definition are not vehicle operators. Naturally, they're going to need separate facilities. Cyclists, OTOH, are vehicle operators. The rules of the road are perfectly capable of accommodating them without any special features on the road.
Without proper recognition, road designs not only imply that cyclists are unwelcomed and not accorded the same rights as drivers in motorized vehivles, but actually increase cycling risks and conflict unnecessarily.
Nothing about standard road markings and features implies that cyclists are not welcome to use the road. That attitude is solely the result of our car-dependent culture. The car is so ubiquitous in our society now that the unimaginative among us just can't coneive of the idea of using anything else on the road. This is a fault, not in the roads as designed, but in North American culture.
These problems are exacerbated by many other problems: lack of law enforcement, attitude of drivers, irresponsible cyclists, poor signage, etc.
The rules-design of the road also create conflicts and this is undeniable. A simple but obvious example are highways . . . Along such highways, designers may want to create a separate bike path for cyclists in order to address the inherent conflict and not a bike lane. Sharing the road in these circumstances is highly dangerous and imprudent.
Well, highways are a slightly different case. Unlike ordinary roads, highways were built specifically for high speed motor vehicle traffic. On a highway, I will acknowledge that there is an inherent conflict due to the much higher speed differential between the motor vehicles using such roads and the cyclist.

As a general rule, I would recommend a cyclist use a more conventional road. If no such road exists between the cyclist and their intended destination, then I would advocate the creation of a separate bike path parallel to the highway.

That being said, there are highways in my local area that I use from time to time depending on my intended destination. I always take the shortest route. Naturally, if the highway presents the shortest route, that's the route I'll take. However, presented with two routes of equal length, one on conventional roads and one on the highway, I'll almost always choose the highway.

The reason is simple. To be blunt, most of the conventional roads around here are in dire need of repair. The highway, OTOH, tends to be glass smooth and in good repair because, unlike the conventional roads, it must accommodate much faster traffic. Even the smallest pothole might shatter the suspension or rim of a car blasting over it at 100 km/h. Since I prefer smooth roads, I prefer to use a highway when possible.

For example, to get to North Sydney from here, I have a choice of two routes. I could take Keltic Drive, or I could take Highway 125. Both routes are virtually identical in length. I prefer the highway to Keltic Drive.

If I take Keltic Drive, I have to cross a very old bridge across Sydney River that's in pretty rough shape. Not to mention it's narrow and hard to negotiate. If I take Highway 125, OTOH, the pavement is perfect and the road is wide with a good, wide, paved shoulder to ride on. The highway simply makes more sense. It's more comfortable, I can go faster and I don't have to delay anyone.

Now I will admit that these highways are fairly well suited for cycling because of their wide, paved shoulders which, IMHO, is almost as effective as a separate path. I just stay in the shoulder, completely out of the way of approaching traffic. The only time I enter the traffic lane is when crossing an exit ramp. I shoulder check and move into the traffic lane to signal my intention to continue on the highway and re-enter the shoulder once past the ramp.

I have used these highways safely dozens of times without any problems and, done properly, most cyclists can use such roads. However, I do not recommend highway cycling to an inexperienced cyclist. A cyclist should get thoroughly comfortable with negotiating traffic on conventional roads first before tackling traffic on highways, negotiating with traffic on merges.
Other potential riders are prevented from riding and I know many. My friends who came here from Europe, use to cycle everyday and prefer to do so, now use their autos instead. What does that tell you?
It tells me that their perception of the risks involved in cycling with motor traffic are vastly inflated.
Accepting and promoting the status quo fails the tests of inclusiveness and respect.
"Inclusiveness" is my entire argument. We need to include cyclists in the flow of traffic, not segregate them into their "own facilities." To do otherwise is, IMHO, simply bigoted, not on the basis of race, but on the basis of the vehicle one chooses to drive.

On May 11, 2007 1:17:11 PM ADT, Tom Frost Jr. wrote:
I . . . want . . . to nitpick about one thing in John's similar-to-my-Triad . . . set of tips: "Whether you ride or drive"? I'm always "driving", whether the vehicle that I'm driving is a bike or a car.
You're absolutely right, Tom. My bad. *HANGS HEAD IN SHAME*

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Studded Tires

You know what drives me crazy? Drivers who put studded tires on their cars in the winter then keep them on until the last... possible... second...

Nova Scotia's Studded Tires Regulations allow studded tires on motor vehicles only, "between the 15th day of October in any year and the 30th day of April in the next year following." Now, I can't see any reason why anyone would want to put studded tires on their car as early as October 15th. As crazy as Cape Breton weather is, I've never seen conditions that would justify studded tires that early, and most people do tend to wait until late November, early December.

The people I have an issue with are those who leave them on until April 30th, long after every trace of ice and snow is long gone from the roads. There are even a few who don't bother to take them off until several days after April 30th. Even now, a full nine days after the deadline, I still occasionally hear the telltale crunching of studs on the tires of the vehicle pulling up behind me at a red light...

Why does this bug me so much?

In the winter, studs don't harm the roads much. The pavement is cold. It's therefore hard and unyielding. Studs have little effect on it. In any event, the roads are covered with ice and/or snow half the time, anyway, so the studs rarely even make contact with the pavement.

However, once the air starts to warm up, two things happen. First, the ice and snow melt away, so the studs make full contact with the pavement all the time. The bigger problem, however, is that the rising temperatures also soften the asphalt. As the asphalt gets softer, studs start to dig in to the road. Over time, this creates a "pebbling" effect. The digging in of all those studs effectively "roughens" the surface of the pavement.

When Kings Road was first reconstructed about a year ago, it was a joy to ride on. It was like rolling over glass, it was so smooth. Now, I feel like I'm rolling over a thousand marbles. Particularly in the right lane, no matter where I ride in the lane, the vibration is constant, and it's brutal in the left and right thirds of the lane where the tires of cars roll most often.

I don't have anything against the use of studded tires when necessary. My problem is with those who are irresponsible with them. I mean, winter is over! Take them off for crying out loud! Heck, studded tires have more rolling resistance, anyway, so they're murder on fuel efficiency! At today's gas prices, why would any driver want to keep them on?

Besides, they're damaging the roads that we all have to share.

Come on. Let's get those studded tires off, OK?

On May 10, 2007 1:25:33 AM ADT, Sue wrote:
[T]aking off your studs on time actually *causes* a late spring snowstorm just as surely as watering your lawn causes it to rain. :)
You should know that you're talking to someone who disdains superstition. :P That being said, I understand the concern. The thing is, though, that ordinary winter tires can make driving safer without the damage studs cause. That's another thing. Weather around here over the last two winters hasn't been nearly bad enough to even justify studs IMHO.

Besides. If one drives slowly and carefully, one can even get around safely on all season or even summer tires in snowy or icy conditions just for one or two storms. I know. I've ridden on my street slicks in stormy conditions. You have to slow down and use your back brake instead of your front, but it can be done if done with care. If a guy on a bicycle can do it, so can someone in a car. :P
But not switching and just going studless for the last storm or two of the season, can be downright dangerous for some of us who have mountain passes or icy stretches involved in almost any winter-weather driving.
OK. For mountain passes, I'll concede that it might be wiser to keep the studs on, but Kings Road is not in the Cape Breton Highlands. It's relatively flat its entire length and has a low speed limit. There's no reason to use studs on that road at all, and the highlands are 60 kilometers away. There's no way that there are enough people coming down from the highlands daily to account for the sheer amount of stud damage on Kings.

In either case, IMHO there is no justification for keeping the studs on beyond the legal limit. There's not a single flake of snow out there right now. The temperature is 11° C and it's supposed to go up to 20. The lowest temperature on the long range forecast overnight is Sunday's 0. Showers are predicted for Friday and Saturday, but no snow. So why am I still hearing the occasional studs on the road now...?

Like I said, it's the irresponsible use of studs outside the legal limit that irks me the most.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Encounter with a Motorist

I had a surprising experience this past Saturday on my way to the Velo Cape Breton Season Opening Banquet.

I was heading north on Keltic Drive approaching the train trestle just before the bridge. For those who don't know the area, as you pass the lights at the entrance to the Cape Breton Shopping Plaza, the road "pinches" down from three lanes to one just prior to the trestle. To prevent motorists from trying to squeeze past me, I generally "take the lane" here. There simply isn't room to share once you're under that trestle.

Anyway, as I pass under the trestle, a pickup truck brushes by me within centimeters of my elbow. Startled and incensed, I yell out, "Hey!"

He heard me...

Just beyond the trestle is a wide gravel shoulder. He pulls over, looking back at me as I approach. Now I evaluate my options. There are no buildings there whatsoever. There are no people around save the cars passing. I figure getting into a confrontation with this guy there, where there is no possibility of help should I get into trouble, would be unwise. So, I stand out of my saddle and sprint past him, hoping that would be the end of it.

After getting past the bridge and preparing to make my turn onto Westmount Road, I look back and, to my astonishment, the guy is still there, following me. I'm a pretty fast cyclist, but not that fast, particularly since that whole route going north is uphill. There was no way this guy would still be behind me if he wasn't deliberately following me...

Getting nervous now, I make my turn onto Westmount and, sure enough, the guy makes the same turn right behind me. I look around again. This time, I'm in an area where there are several houses and there's a couple of people getting out of a car in front of a house. Good. I've got help if I need it, and I'd rather pull over and confront this guy face to face than confront him while he's still behind the wheel of 5000 kilograms of steel...

So, I pull over. He passes me and pulls over about 20 meters ahead. He gets out of his truck and heads right for me. OK, so I wasn't imagining things. He was following me. I tense as he approaches, ready to defend myself in case this gets ugly...

He walks up to me and says: "Sorry about that, bud. I thought you were going to stay in the other lane."

Whoa. Hold on. Back up. Rewind...

This guy went to all that trouble, pacing me, following me for a good minute only to pull over and apologize...?


I was so impressed with this guy that I stepped out of my saddle and reached out to shake his hand. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. That was, bar none, the classiest interaction I've ever had with a fellow road user, cyclist or motorist.

Velo Cape Breton's educational efforts appear to be paying off. Motorists are finally starting to understand: cyclists are vehicle operators with the same rights as any other road user.

I only wish I had had time to find out who that guy was. He deserves to be recognized for his courtesy.

On May 8, 2007 8:32:06 PM ADT, autumn wrote:
[I]t appears nobody reads your blog but me.
No, lots of people a reading it. It's just that a vast majority of them are commenting to me privately rather than posting comments to the blog itself.
I never see a comment.Why do you think that is happening?
Actually, there have been several comments lately. It's just that they've all been from the troll.

As I said in my earlier post Facing Anger, I was only publishing his comments in the first place because I found him entertaining. The more proverbial rope I gave him, the more tangled up he got until, finally, he hung himself, just as I knew he would. Once that happened, his postings were no longer entertaining. They're just more of the same crap over and over again, anyway, so I see no point in posting them anymore.

Most of my friends weren't comfortable posting comments to the blog, anyway. I encouraged them to, but most people seem to prefer to give me advice face to face or in private E-mail rather than by commenting to the blog. The average personal blog doesn't tend to get many comments, anyway. Even Riin's blog only gets occasional comments under normal circumstances, and she's a much more popular online personality than I.

Those few that were commenting here probably stopped because they were tired of reading about my troubles with Riin. That's not surprising. Even I am talked out about the subject at this point. I've pretty much said everything I needed to say. Actually, writing it all down in the blog here helped me sort out a lot. I feel much better now, and I have a much clearer picture of what I feel, and why. Now, I only talk about her in public when she comes up in context.

I haven't given up on Riin. It's simply that anything I do have left to say, I will only say to her. Not here.

Hopefully, some day I'll have that chance. Until then, I've said all I have to say about it.

That doesn't mean that I'm not going to post here anymore, mind you. One good thing that came out of the Riin mess is I finally get the value of a blog. So I'll probably be posting here a lot more often on a variety of different subjects, much like the very story you commented on here. ;)